Making Of 'Far, Far Away'

Half of the time when I start something. I don't have an initial concept in my head; I just start modelling, and when the model is ready I create a story based on it, and then an image.  The idea is then born along the process of creation.  It is like meditation.  "Far, Far Away" was done in this exact, same way.  I didn't even know what I was going to model when I started!  It was just one of my experiments.

I used Mudbox for sculpting.  I find this program very intuitive and responsive.  I created a cube and started sculpting.  My process of modelling is the usual one.  First I block the main masses and then go into detail.  The finished model was around 2,700,000 polygons.  It was subdivided 9 times and I used 20 layers for the different features of the creature.  To the right you can see the stages that I went through whilst sculpting (Fig01).

Fig. 1_stages_creature

Fig. 1_stages_creature

Because I liked the result I decided to texture and render it in ZBrush.  By that time I was still using ZBrush 2.  The idea of the finished image was still quite far away at this point.  Once imported into ZBrush, I dropped it on the canvas, converted it to pixels and started playing with the lights and materials.   When I was quite satisfied I started painting the textures.  Because the object was converted to pixels, I was able to use the 2.5D tools.  They are extremely useful and very flexible.  All textures, including the eye, were painted by hand.  On the previous page there is a screen grab of it (Fig02).

Fig. 2_texture_creature

Fig. 2_texture_creature

After finishing the textures, I got deeper into the lighting and materials.  I used 3 different modified versions of the QuadShader: one for the top part of the creature, one for the middle, and one for the lower part.  For the eye I used ToyPlastic shader.  In order to increase the specularity on some of the parts I painted them with another modified QuadShader.  On the previous page you can see an example of the image with the areas that I painted with different shaders (Fig03).

Fig. 3_shaders_creature

Fig. 3_shaders_creature

To light it properly I used 5 lights: 3 sun and 2 point.  ZBrush is a bit different from the usual 3D software when it comes to rendering, but if lights, materials and render settings are combined properly you can get really solid results (Fig04).

Fig. 4_renderZ_creature

Fig. 4_renderZ_creature

After this stage, the idea of a whole scene started to emerge.  I tried to imagine the environment that this creature could have lived in.  Because it wasn't supposed to be part of a scene, I didn't think about composition and stuff when dropping it on the canvas and rendering it (as you know, in ZBrush, once an object has been dropped it cannot be rotated in 3D).  That's why my task was quite difficult.  After some thinking, I made a very basic model of a circular composition of rocks.  It was done in Softimage XSI (Fig05).  I then imported it into Mudbox for detailing (Fig06).

Fig. 5_XSI_rocks

Fig. 5_XSI_rocks

Fig. 6_mudbox_rocks

Fig. 6_mudbox_rocks

The polycount was around 1,100,000 polys.  I then took it into ZBrush for lighting, texture painting and rendering.  I used 8 lights.  Again, I used the 2.5D tools to achieve different kinds of effects.  In the end, instead of rendering it, I just took a screengrab because I liked it a lot (Fig07).

Fig. 7_zbrush_rocks

Fig. 7_zbrush_rocks

For the background, I really liked an image that I painted for another piece.  I thought it would go nicely with the rest of the scene (Fig08).

Fig. 8_background_moon

Fig. 8_background_moon

The next thing to do was to take all of the 'stuff' into Photoshop and start playing with it.  When I do such compositing, I usually collect lots of dirt textures from the Internet, which helps me to blend the different layers and achieve certain effects.  For this particular image, the main task was to combine the creature, rocks and the background in such way so that they blended nicely together.  I divided the image into 2 parts: foreground and background.  I have always been trying to take into consideration how the eye of the spectator will react.  Every image should have a point where the eye can focus and a place where it can relax.

I had to change the initial colours of everything. I also played with the saturation, contrast, blending modes and so on (Fig09). 

Fig. 9_stage_composition

Fig. 9_stage_composition

After some tests, I decided to drop the moon.  I also had to add some layers for further polishing.  They were used to blur or reveal some parts of the image.  I had to do some painting as well.  The composition stage took me about 2 days to complete.  Because I didn't have any more time, I called it finished, but to be honest a lot more could have been done!  (Fig10)

Fig. 10

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